I recently had a conversation with someone of Afghan ethnicity and was surprised to learn his account of experiencing racism more from black individuals than of any other race.
Wait, really? Even more than white people?
While I stand firmly in the belief that racism cannot be racism without power and privilege, hearing his experience challenged this concept.
So the question remains. Can black people be racist too? And my answer remains the same.
No! And here is why.
First of all, there is no such thing as reverse racism. Period.
Racism is racism is racism. I mean, think about it. The word “reverse” in itself implies that there is an opposite. So if we’re “reversing” the term racism, it would be called non-racist or anti-racist. So keeping with the etymology, “reverse racism” only supports the claim that black people cannot be racist. Ironic, isn’t it? And keep in mind, this reverse racism term is a term coined by white people to deflect their own racist tendencies.
Let’s face it white people. Being called out on any level of racist beliefs, regardless of whether we are conscious or unconscious of them, sucks and feels shitty. No good conscious white person wants that label. But sadly, it is a reality we must accept before we can play a productive role in fighting against systemic racism, or any perpetuation of racism.
While isolated incidences of racist remarks from marginalized individuals towards more privileged individuals does occur, it doesn’t even begin to measure against the lived experiences of the racially marginalized. Imagine, we white people can actually recount every single instance of perceived racist experiences while it is emphatically impossible for racially marginalized individuals to do so, simply because of the magnitude and frequency that it occurs.
So, how do you accuse a population who falls on the bottom tier of a system built to disenfranchise their entire human existence, racist?
When we experience racist remarks from a racially marginalized individual, where do you think that behavior is learned from? What race, historically, taught the concept of superiority and inferiority based on race? Exactly my point.
So, why are you mad when they reflect back to you their every day lived experience? They didn’t create this mess. We did! There comes a moment where we have to take accountability for the crimes of our ancestors. And yes, even the ancestors who stood by and ignorantly perpetuated such treatment must be held accountable too, regardless of how innocent you may perceive them to be. And believe it or not, this treatment continues today.
Racism is a social construct that we MUST unlearn. And how do we do that?
We allow others to call us out. Regardless of our “pure” intentions. Because those pure intentions are far too often destructive and traumatizing.
So again, I restate my stance. Black people cannot be racist. They don’t have the power to be racist. They only have the power to project their lived experiences back towards us—the lived experience that we blindly hide behind and pretend doesn’t exist. And other racially marginalized groups can only be racist to the extent their racial privilege allows them to be.
So instead of exercising our toxic white fragility to defend ourselves, learn from the ones who bring it to our attention. They are only reflecting back to us the change that is so desperately needed. Only then can healing begin. And only then can the work for equal and equitable change can progress towards a more harmonious human existence.